Growers say watermelon prices could fall with stronger supplies

07/20/2011 10:21:00 AM
Andy Nelson

High watermelon prices could come down in some areas of the country as production shifts, but markets in other regions could remain tight into September.

Between the end of its Georgia and the beginning of its Indiana watermelons deals was a gap and a subsequent demand-exceeds-supply market, Randy Smith, vice president and salesman for Midwest Marketing Co. Inc., Vincennes, Ind.

Indiana shipments were expected to begin the weekend of July 23-24, about 10 days later than normal, Smith said.

West Texas volumes will be down significantly because of lower acreage and lower yields, said Claudie Berry, salesman for Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce Ltd.

By the week of July 18, the Texas deal was transitioning from the central to the western part of the state, Berry said. Frontera expected western volumes to pick up by about July 23.

But because of a smaller crop and lower yields — due to low rainfall — Texas prices won’t likely budge much from the July 18 price of 20 to 22 cents per pound for seedless watermelons, Berry said.

“It looks like it will stay pretty tight through Labor Day,” he said. “Demand is really good.”

The week of July 18, Midwest Marketing reported a price of 20 cents per pound for seedless Missouri watermelons, Smith said.

When Indiana volumes begin shipping, the price will likely be 20 or 21 cents, Smith said, but by Aug. 1, thanks to larger volumes out of Indiana and other states, it should be 18 cents, if not lower.

On July 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $19-20 per cwt. for 24-inch bins of red seedless watermelons 36-60s from North Carolina, up from $15-16 last year at the same time.

The quality of the Indiana crop, despite the late start, looked good as of July 18, Smith said. Yields in the southern part of the state could be down, he said.

Quality also was good out of Missouri, but yields were expected to be lower than normal, Smith said.

Despite the effect on yields, the quality of the West Texas watermelon crop is good, Berry said.

Quality also is good out of North Carolina, said Gordon Etheridge, president of Etheridge Produce LLC, Raleigh, N.C.

But also like Texas, hot weather and a short crop have been the story out of the Carolinas, Etheridge said.

Etheridge was concerned prices in mid-July were too high for the market to bear. When Indiana and the Eastern Shore of Maryland pick up production, prices could fall fast, he said.



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